Posted Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Post for a Busy Day: Some Links, and Today's Tunes

Today: a couple of links that you've probably already seen, and another look inside my iTunes music library.

The Nine Inch Nails GarageBand project. This has been all over the Web, but because it relates to iLife, I'll mention it here. Last week, the group Nine Inch Nails released a GarageBand project containing a song from their latest album (big honkin' 70MB download; free registration required).

No, they didn't create the song in GarageBand; they moved its tracks from a high-end Pro Tools audio system into GarageBand. Still, it's cool: you can mute tracks, apply effects, remix, and experiment.

Unfortunately, GarageBand lacks a key feature that would sweeten the deal for me: a Make Me Like This Artist's Music effect. Don't get me wrong: I love that a recording artist released a song in a modular, modifiable way—and used GarageBand to do the job. I just wish that artist had been Herbie Hancock or George Duke.

More details than you need about audio encoding. The folks at Ars Technica have published an exhaustive and exhausting backgrounder on audio encoding formats. My eyes glazed over several times, and I like this stuff.

Although it's good, the guide short-shrifts the AAC format. There's a full page on LAME, an MP3 encoder that approximately 17 people actually use, and only five paragraphs on AAC. But I reckon that's to be expected from a PC-centric geek site. (Bring on the LAME flames!)

Lovely iTunes and iPod backgrounders. Over the past week, my Macworld colleague Chris Breen has been posting some great backgrounders that demystify some of the more subtle aspects of iTunes and the iPod: Sound Check and You, iPod EQ and You, and iTunes Join Tracks, Gaps, and You. Great stuff.

Today's Tunes
I've always loved big band jazz. I played in a big band in high school (piano for two years, bass for one), and the sound of 20+ musicians playing rich jazz arrangements has appealed to me ever since.

Here are a few favorites.

Buddy Rich was a legend: not only for his intense and intensely musical drumming, but for his profane and dictatorial relationship with his band members. (A well-crafted Google search will lead you to audio recordings of him ranting—I mean ranting—at his band. As Tipper Gore would say, Caution: Explicit Lyrics.)

Buddy wasn't a sweetheart, but he sure knew his way around a drum kit. Check out Time Check, a seriously up-tempo minor blues with great arrangement, great solos, and amazing drum fills. Percussion phobics, fear not—there are no endless drum solos here, just some perfectly crafted fills and breaks. (You can hear one of them in the iTunes Music Store's 30-second preview.)

Looking for something a little less pulse-racing? Turn to Buddy's older recording of Blue and Sentimental. This tune could open a film noir picture—animated neon signs reflected in wet streets, a half-empty bottle of scotch on the desk of a cheap hotel, and a grizzled guy who's down on his luck but still gets the girl.

But enough of my weekend plans—back to the present. Canadian bandleader Rob McConnell is known for his complex, artful arrangements. This medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes knocks me out, but if you want to start somewhere, start with his version of the jazz classic Invitation. It's a classic big band sound spiced up with complex jazz harmonies and backed by great soloists.

And from a Canadian, no less!